Interview with… Knife Dance

We sat down with the illustrator of our new TGF Resurrection Poster, Kat ‘Knifedance’, to chat about the inspiration behind her ‘macabre and detailed’ artwork, her process as an artist and tattooist, and her favourite TGF pieces.

When did you first start drawing?

I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life when I haven’t drawn to be honest. However, I really started coming out of my shell and started thinking ‘I could really make something of this’ about 5 years ago. It all started with just one drawing and sharing it to be friends on Instagram. It took a lot of courage to share that one image, but slowly it wasn’t just my friends who were liking my pictures, it became strangers around the world, who in turn appreciated my work and the demand to sell my artwork became a thing.

What’s your favourite subject to draw?

That’s easy – snakes and skulls! Snakes are really overwhelming to draw at the beginning because you have to get that curvature of the scales just right so it doesn’t look flat but the detail and texture snakes have are just amazing. Skulls have always been my thing and honestly, I think they will always be ‘my thing’. However, a lot of my work takes on a Japanese or religious twist to things, so it’s not often I draw stand-alone skulls and skeletons.

Kat sketching out a snake

What inspires your work? Any particular things or other artists?

Irish artist Harry Clarke, and English Artist Aubrey Beardsley are my all-time gods. It was actually the illustrations that Harry Clarke did for Edgar Allan Poes’ book ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination’ that massively influenced my artwork in the early days and helped me develop a style of drawing. Both artists depict death in a beautiful way – a sort of martyrism mixed with a splash of eroticism and the grotesque. There is obviously a very heavy Japanese influence in my work too, that all stems from me trying to learn Japanese slowly and also I am a huge history nerd. I love the stories in which a kimono can hold and how every garment was designed to tell a story.

Can you tell us, in your own words, the feeling or idea behind the TGF Resurrection illustration?

The Great Frog has had its roots in the industry since 1972 and that’s what I wanted to depict in the image. The skull slowly rooting to the ground with the mushrooms, plays jest to it starting in the ’70s with the psychedelic subculture, but also that the skull is being rooted down by nature, meaning that it’s not going anywhere. It has become part of the foundation and also history. I really wanted to use the classic Rosary to mark this. I love this TGF piece so much and I used my own Crucifix Pendant as a reference and used it as a sort of decorated gravestone to mark its history. 

The TGF Resurrection Poster, illustrated by Knife Dance

You’ve recently started tattooing, how is this art form compared to drawing?

It’s really hard! I am so thankful to Nicola and Scott Move (owners of Parliament Tattoo) for giving me the opportunity to become an apprentice and learn under a roof that holds some of the industry’s best tattoo artists. Tattooing is more than just putting ink into skin and the whole journey of learning the ins and outs of how a tattoo studio works, the utmost care and consideration that is needed to make every client’s visit the best and THEN sit down and give them something that will decorate their skin for life, it’s a real journey. I still have a lot of learning to do, and at this stage, I am still an apprentice, but seeing my artwork on skin, is a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever stop getting giddy about. 

What’s your advice to someone who wants to kickstart their creative career?

God, I could talk for days about this. I think the hardest step for me was showing my artwork and having that confidence in myself. Once you bite the bullet and get your artwork out there, then you’re already on the journey. Social Media is a great platform at your fingertips to learn. There are so many artists out there that share their process videos, watch and learn, and then watch and learn again. However, never compare yourself to other artists. Once you start comparing yourself to others, you will lose your uniqueness, and your talent and that style that your brain wants to develop will be stifled. It sounds really cliche to say it, but you really have to believe in yourself and if you have questions, ask. You’d be surprised that artists even with the greatest of following are always happy to help others!

What’s your favourite piece from The Great Frog?

Now that’s hard. My Thin Skull Bangle hasn’t come off my wrist for about 5 years. I’m pretty lazy so if I can have jewellery that is comfortable to sleep in, I’ll have it! My next two would be my Small Feather Setting Ring with a faceted garnet and then my Skull & Dagger Ring, they are on my hands every day and comfortable to draw in. I think my next purchase is going to be the Snake Head Bracelet – God guys, you did this question to make me shop didn’t you?

If you could draw any other TGF pieces what would you draw?

Just because I love drawing skulls and snakes, it would have to be the Naga Skull Ring! Next in line I think would be the Skull & Dagger and Wreath Rings. The composition of those rings is an artist’s dream to draw!

The Naga Skull Ring

Do you have a dream client for your illustration work or tattooing?

I’ve never really thought about this – I guess if it came to tattooing it would have to be someone who has the most mental stories and because I’d be tattooing them, they’d have hours to tell me of what their life was! If it was a client, I love companies that have a history (like TGF!) because there is so much to work with and I can absorb all of that and get slightly obsessed with everything that the company has done and influenced throughout the ages. At this moment in time, any client – tattooing or illustration is a dream to me because they have come to me because they like my artwork. Even after all these years I still think, ‘this is proper mad!’.

Is there a particular message you like to say through your work?

In Japanese culture, there is always a story behind every piece, be it art, a kimono, or a weapon, and that’s the direction I like to take also with my artwork. My subjects have always been amazingly strong people, in my eyes, and I like the idea of creating Saints. There is always a sort of false idolatry influence with my artwork. Back in history, people would be buried with all their gold and jewels because this was thought to make them rich in the afterlife, whereas I believe we are rich through our memories and that is what I like to create in my artwork, a stamp on a memory.

Shop the TGF Resurrection Poster here.